How It’s New York: The plays are written by a New York rock legend (Larry Kirwan) and a City College professor (Seamus Scanlon), it’s playing in a cool downtown NYC theatre space, and it’s getting the enough New York buzz to extend its run: through Mar. 29!
“Shower of bastards – spittin’ at us and spatterin’ us with horseshite as we were frog- marched out of the GPO and into this hellhole!”
|Jed Peterson and Ciaran Byrne (@Christina Kim)|
Scene Two goes the heart of the drama, a flashback to 1913 when Connolly disappeared, held in secret for three days by the rival Irish Republic Brotherhood. Kirwan scripted and Kira Simring directed a scene of escalating tension played out at close quarters, a boxing match with three contestants, whose rivalries and alliances shifting round by round. There’s Connolly, the vibrant prole of the Dublin’s slums termed the worst in Europe; Sean MacDermott (Jed Peterson), the wraithlike organizer of the IRB–pale, gaunt, stricken with polio, which at least left him with a cane to wield; and Padraig Pearse (Paul Nugent)–poet, barrister, Gaelic language proponent, who would be the President of the Irish Republic in the few days before the Rising was crushed. As they spar, a breakthrough is blundered into, a tense equilibrium achieved, a wan handshake brokered and the fates of these three and many more are sealed. “Blood” ends where it began, Connolly alone in Kilmainham Jail awaiting his own bitter conclusion to the Rising.
Kirwan gives his actors a great material—a compelling historical incident, tightly laced dialogue and rich dramatic possibilities–and they rise to the challenge. Ciaran Byrne’s Connolly is impassioned, physical, pugnacious, instinctive, with the down-to-earth sensibilities of a family man and an appealing northern tinged accent. Jed Peterson’s Sean McDermott is cold, austere, conniving, a fatalist and he plays the character’s stiffly challenged physical infirmities convincingly. Paul Nugent plays Pearce as a conciliator, opportunist, a bit out of his league and uncomfortable in his own skin, with a Mitt Romney-esque awkwardness when he tries for the common touch, but with steely conviction for the cause at his core.
He comes back with a flourish in Seamus Scanlon’s “Dancing with Lunacy” in an indelibly rendered character named McGowan, an offbeat wiseass, fuelled by manic energy and freshly brewed tea, a pop music loving, gun toting, Clockwork Orange caliber sociopath for the Republican cause. The play’s title is an apt wordplay on Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa, especially in the manic moment when McGowan pistons up and down in a punk dance called Pogo (think Irish step dancing weaponized and on crack…not craic).
|Paul Nugent Dancing the Pogo (@Christina Kim)|
“Dancing…” opens in dead-end Irish Republican drinking club, a young guy behind an old bar, and a couple of bar flies enjoying their stupor, until McGowan cajoles his way in, looking natty in tight fitting jacket over a Black 47 tee shirt. His banter is weird, entertaining and unsettling with an edge sharp enough to slice onions. With the arrival of an older man, the IRA hard guy Pender (Phil Callen), things get awfully serious, awfully fast as McGowan, Pender and a bar patron named Ahern (Todd Pate), an alumnus of infamous Long Kesh prison, become a terrible triangle with a traitor at its core. The scene escalates in menace and violence as quickly as it retreats from sanity and civilization.
|Philip Callen, Brett Aresco, Todd Pate (@Christina Kim)|
Scanlon has crafted a powerful piece that refuses to romanticize “The Troubles” and created in McGowan an original, chilling and bizarrely memorable character.